The NCAA is lifting a boycott on the state of North Carolina after legislators repealed a law that discriminated against LGBTQ individuals. While some have welcomed the repeal of the law and the return of college sports to the state, some civil rights groups said they were disappointed the NCAA is ending the boycott because discrimination issues in the state still persist.
In a rush to qualify for NCAA championship events scheduled for 2020-2024, the North Carolina legislature introduced a bill March 29 meant to repeal House Bill 2, more commonly referred to as HB2. The bill introduced and signed by Gov. Roy Cooper (D), House Bill 142, repeals the requirement that individuals use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificate, but still legalizes discrimination against the LGBTQ community and forbids anti-discrimination laws from being passed until Dec. 1, 2020.
In a press conference on Thursday, Gov. Cooper said “Today, we repealed HB2. It wasn’t a perfect deal or my preferred solution, but an important first step for our state.” He added, “This was the best deal we could get.”
Gov. Cooper explained, “This was not about sports or businesses. It was about discrimination. And it was about North Carolina’s reputation.”
Despite heavy lobbying from LGBTQ groups to continue boycotting the state, the NCAA released a statement on Tuesday announcing that the boycott would be lifted. In a statement released on their website, the NCAA addressed the repeal and said “As with most compromises, this new law is far from perfect.”
They further explained that they did not ask the state to repeal any specific part of HB2, but that the NCAA’s Board of Directors “was hopeful that the state would fully repeal HB2 in order to allow the host communities to ensure a safe, healthy, discrimination-free atmosphere for the championship sites.” They also made it clear that by getting rid of the bathroom clause, the behavior the board is “concerned” with “a landscape similar to other jurisdictions presently hosting NCAA championships.”
Ultimately, the statement declared, “We are actively determining site selections, and this new law has minimally achieved a situation where we believe NCAA championships may be conducted in a nondiscriminatory environment. If we find that our expectations of a discrimination-free environment are not met, we will not hesitate to take necessary action at any time.”
A recent report by the Associated Press calculated that HB2 would cost the state of North Carolina at least $3.76 billion dollars over the next 12 years. Businesses have moved out of North Carolina or refused to allow employees to go there on official business. North Carolina’s Duke University has been very vocal about its opposition to HB2 since its inception. The private university was quick to speak out against a law that affected their athletics department, enrollment and prevented other esteemed public educators from traveling to their campus.
In a statement last week, Duke officials said:
“We are pleased that the legislature has moved to reverse a misguided law that has caused significant harm to the state of North Carolina. This compromise is far from perfect. We continue to urge the governor and members of the legislature to find common ground that ensures equal protection under the law for every member of our community.”
Over the last year, the NCAA, NBA, and Atlantic Coast Conference have all pulled games from North Carolina, but the passage of HB 142 already sparked a reversal by the ACC.
On Friday, the ACC released a statement saying “The ACC Council of Presidents has voted that North Carolina will again be considered for hosting future ACC Championships.”
At the end of last week, LGBTQ advocates, the North Carolina NAACP, the Human Rights Campaign, Equality North Carolina, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Freedom Center for Social Justice, spoke out against the compromise law that Gov. Cooper signed and compelled the NCAA to come out against the measure.
In a joint statement, the groups said “We call on the NCAA to oppose this shameful HB2.0 bill in North Carolina, and not to reward lawmakers who have passed this so-called ‘deal’ which is an affront to the values we all hold. This bill is anti-worker, anti-access to the courts, and anti-LGBTQ. It violates all basic principles of diversity, inclusion and basic civil rights. Fundamentally, any moratorium on civil rights is not a compromise, it is a contradiction with the principle of equal protection under the law and our moral values.”